How to Have Difficult Conversation in Virtual Meetings

May 11, 20201:38 pm1280 views
How to Have Difficult Conversation in Virtual Meetings
How to Have Difficult Conversation in Virtual Meetings

As a manager, there are good chances that you will have to lead a difficult conversation with the team from time to time. Difficult conversation involves topics that you don’t want to talk about, situations where you are not sure how to say and what to say, conflicting opinions, circumstances where the outcome is uncertain, or discussion which might make both parties feel uncomfortable. 

Why should you have a difficult conversation? 

Difficult conversations are a normal part of work-life. But the truth is, if managers could choose, many would love to avoid such conversations because it makes them feel uncomfortable. The fear of hurting someone’s feelings and dealing with potential drama and conflict might hold them back from carrying out the conversations. 

An Interact survey conducted online by Harris Poll found that the majority (69 percent) of managers said that they are often uncomfortable communicating with employees. Over a third (37 percent) of managers surveyed said that they are uncomfortable having to give direct feedback about their employee’s performance if they think the employee might respond negatively to the feedback. 

See also: Why are Global Virtual Teams Falling Short of their Potential?

Unfortunately, avoiding difficult conversations might not be the best choice because most workplace problems will not go away by themselves. In fact, avoiding difficult conversations could result negatively for the company, employees, and managers themselves. The impacts include the following: 

  • Prolong or exacerbate the problem 
  • Ignore employees’ chance to improve 
  • Damage the productivity and efficiency of the business 
  • Reduce staff engagement 
  • Reduce staff confidence in the manager’s ability to manage 
  • Lead to lower morale among team members  
  • Lead to higher absenteeism and employee turnover 

In conclusion, difficult conversation might be hard and uncomfortable to conduct but it is a must. It is essential for managers to have the skills, knowledge and confidence to identify and manage problems at work early on. 

How to have difficult conversation virtually 

Psychologist Herb Clark said: human communication is optimised for small numbers of people to talk together face-to-face in real-time. The further we get from this ideal situation, the more opportunities for communication to go awry. 

Due to today’s circumstances, many managers have to conduct meetings virtually since employees are asked to work from home during Coronavirus lockdown. That being said, managers need to prepare for the difficult parts of handling conversation virtually, such as miscommunication or lack of technical support. To help managers get ease over the tension, here are some tips to try. 

  • Decide what you want to achieve other than the conversation itself, for example, you might want to resolve a problem afterwards or you want to convey clear expectations to avoid misunderstanding. 
  • Check facts and gather relevant documents. Make sure you know the facts of the situation before approaching the team. 
  • Have the conversation “in-person”. While you cannot meet employees physically, make sure you don’t conduct the difficult conversation over text-messaging or email. Taking on a video call is ideal and it will make the conversation feel as ‘in person’ as possible. Here are the tips to be fully present in a virtual conversation
  • Be specific during the conversation. Difficult conversation requires providing specific feedback, not just abstraction. This is particularly true when addressing problems, such as decreased performance. Before having the conversation, managers can take a note to help remember particular examples to bolster the main points. Therefore, the conversation will run effectively and not miss a thing. 
  • Let them calm down and have a follow-up. Getting unpleasant news can decrease mood in no time, therefore, it is better to let your employees feel the feedback or information sink in. Then, you can check on them by scheduling a follow-up chat as soon as possible to keep the conversation active. 

Read also: How to IMPROVE the Effectiveness of Your Virtual Meeting